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1578-chapter-124

Aleph had wanted to make amends, but now he felt like a wretch who had also lost that chance. His actions, driven by desire, had resulted in nothing but mistakes in front of Jiwoo.

He couldn’t bring himself to speak.

Instead, he slowly fell to his knees before her.

The knees of an imperial prince held no great value before Akarna. If only such a gesture could forgive the past, how wonderful that would be.

What should he say? Pleading with apologies and regrets might make Jiwoo understand the year spent in the temple or the reckless night before, but that was it.

“I can’t ask for your forgiveness.”

There was someone else who could forgive the mistakes he had made over such a long time. Yet, that person was not entirely different.

Aleph knew that the white bird that came to him was the answer to the forgiveness he had sought for years.

It was impossible to beg for mercy for something already forgiven.

But this was also the one opportunity he had longed for.

So, instead of asking for forgiveness, he said,

“Give me….a chance.”

“A chance?”

He knew it was selfish to cling to her now. He understood that this confession, born out of attachment and selfishness, might just be deceit.

“I want to do better. So you don’t cry anymore. So you won’t regret your life here.”

So you won’t regret having loved me. Even if you accept those feelings again, it won’t lead to misery.

He couldn’t say everything. So Jiwoo calmly listened to his pausing, foolish-sounding words.

“I know my behavior is confusing now. I’ll tell you someday. When I’m a little braver…”

“…”

“Stay with me. Please.”

“…”

“I’m asking you.”

“…”

“Stay with me.”

The longer Jiwoo remained silent, the more anxious Aleph became.

Every time the full moon rose, the hallucinations that had tormented him and the pain of his scars returned slowly.

Those words that had tormented him so much he almost wanted to lose his mind completely. The apparitions that haunted him time and again.

“Don’t make me regret loving you.

“No one but you has made me live in such a place.

“So, Your Highness too can do well…”

“I understand.”

The hallucinations faded away.

“Since I saved you, you need to treat me well.”

The voice covered it with another statement.

It was always like this.

No matter what Aleph did in the past, or how he positioned her, she always stood silently, always forgiving, understanding, and waiting.

This time too, seeing Jiwoo standing there made Aleph feel breathless.

He felt as if he had rediscovered the Seo Jiwoo he knew, yet also as if he had permanently lost the Jiwoo he longed for.

In the ruins of his emotions, only a fool who always made the wrong choices stood alone, a simpleton who thought he could change but ended up repeating the same mistakes.

Tears streamed down from his red eyes as he looked up at Jiwoo. Jiwoo, his only savior, wiped his tears and said,

“Aleph.”

“….Yes.”

“Since I can leave anytime, as you said, I’ll stay here a little longer.”

“….Really?”

“Yes.”

Jiwoo stroked Aleph’s head as he knelt before her like a puppy. His hair was stiff and rough like the hard times he had endured.

“This…”

Aleph pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to her. It was the old ring she had refused before.

Jiwoo stared at the ring.

Did he really want to give it to her that badly, to offer it twice?

“Will you accept it?”

Jiwoo didn’t take it. A slight push of her hand rejected the offered ring, making Aleph feel as if he was falling off a cliff.

“Put it on for me.”

And it was Jiwoo who lifted it again.

His trembling hands missed her fingers several times. After fumbling a few times, he finally managed to slip the ring on and sighed softly.

“Ah.”

It was a scene he had dreamed of many times.

If we were neither the imperial prince of the empire nor the Akarna of the temple, just people who happened to meet somewhere on this land.

If we could have looked into each other’s eyes.

If we could have started with a small, casual greeting.

If I could still love…

In countless moments of the past, if I had made at least one right choice…

“I love you…”

“Really?”

“Yeah…”

“It hasn’t been long since we met.”

“I think I fell for you ….at first sight…”

In the distant past or future she didn’t know, the image of her, who didn’t know the language and trembled in fear in a strange world but still wanted to survive, resembled him who survived like a fiend, driven from the palace to the battlefield.

That’s why he kept thinking about her. He wanted to see her again. He thought she would also want a stable position.

“I thought I had to keep going, just to survive. I thought everything would be fine if I could just create a stable position.”

Filled with joy and half out of his mind, Aleph began to mutter words that the other person might not understand. Even though he knew it was foolish, he couldn’t stop, especially since Seo Jiwoo listened calmly without saying anything.

He thought he just needed to draw the future of being together at any cost. At some point, the means became the purpose, and he had done something irreversible to her.

Instead of seeking forgiveness, his cowardly and fearful heart began to justify itself. But he couldn’t stop. Her delicate hands stroking his hair felt too sweet.

“It’s all right now.”

“Ah…”

Aleph closed his eyes, hearing words he could say nothing to because he knew nothing. He had no right to, yet he surrendered to the figure that was neither truth nor falsehood.

Wouldn’t her Akarna treat his intoxicated, unstable mind’s rambling as nonsense? So, maybe now, he could receive absolution, even if just for a moment.

So, he said it again.

“I love you, Akarna.”

Resting his head on Jiwoo’s knee, he closed his eyes.

“Aleph.”

Jiwoo continued to stroke his hair and called his name several times. He didn’t stir. He must be tired. He seemed to have already fallen asleep, having been awake all night, guarding her bedside.

As dusk faintly illuminated the window, darkness finally enveloped the room. Confirming that he had fallen asleep, Jiwoo inspected her hand with the ring on it.

“How curious.”

The ring fit perfectly on her fourth finger.

END.

 

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